Julius Parker

This story actually begins before Julius Parker’s family relocated to Monrovia, CA in 1933. He was born in Guthrie, Oklahoma on November 7, 1924, the eldest son of Ollie Wigley and Julius Parker. His mother was a trained teacher who received her training from Kansas Teacher’s College in Emporia, Kansas. At an early age, his parents divorced and his mother later married Elmer Barmore, a pullman porter who worked for Santa Fe Railways. In 1931, the couple decided to leave Guthrie to move to Monrovia where Elmer’s aunt, Fannie Goodwin, lived and was a member of Second Baptist Church.   They decided to leave

Julius and younger sister, Dorinda, with their grandmother while his mother and stepfather got settled. In 1933, Julius and Dorinda left Guthrie and their grandmother and arrived at 533 East Cypress Ave., Monrovia, California, the modest home of their mother and step-father. After two years, the family was finally living together in California. Julius and Dorinda started school at the segregated Huntington Elementary School in Monrovia.

Their stepfather was working for Santa Fe Railway while their mother, feeling that it was not fair for Elmer to have the sole financial responsibility of providing for his stepchildren, worked like many Black women, as a domestic worker. Her teaching license was not accepted in California. In the 1930’s, Monrovia’s Blacks lived in close proximity to each other. This area included north of Huntington Drive - Maple Avenue, Almond, Walnut, Duarte Avenue (Royal Oaks) between Canyon on the West to Shamrock to the East and South of Huntington Drive - Cypress, Date (Cherry), Plum (Los Angeles) between Ivy Avenue to the West and Shamrock to the East. Black and Hispanic children attended Huntington Elementary School, Ivy Avenue School (now Clifton Middle School) and Monrovia Arcadia Duarte (MAD) High School. Before long, Elmer and Ollie bought their first home (Julius’ childhood home) at 514 East Maple Avenue within the area where Blacks resided. Julius recalls that his mother, Ollie Barmore, was an amazing woman and mother. She was an educated, principled, religious woman and a champion for social justice. It was from her example that he began witnessing how to live one’s life as a tenacious advocate of fairness and justice. Julius vividly recounted his first realization of the racial divide in Monrovia and how his mother was an example of standing firm for what was right] as he shared an historic event in his life that occurred in 1933. “It was a Friday afternoon and the neighborhood was alive with kids outside playing, having a great time! Then suddenly Julius felt what seemed at first like a slight jolt. ‘Was the ground moving?’ he thought. No, the ground beneath him was shaking! We kids didn’t know what was happening in fact we thought it was fun. You know like a roller coaster! That is until we saw our parent rush out of our homes shouting for us to come inside.” It was an earthquake, at 5:54 pm, March 10, 1933, magnitude 6.4 and named the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake. Julius later remembers how the neighborhood parents were talking about the earthquake damage at Huntington School. "Of course all us kids wanted to see how bad it was. So they went to see for ourselves." When they saw Huntington School, He recalls thinking, “Our school is gone. What are we going to do?” The parents felt their children could not go back to Huntington School. It was simply too damaged and unsafe. They should go to one of the other schools until Huntington was repaired or the district built a new school. But the District decided that while Huntington Elementary was being repaired classes could be held there in parts that were not “too” damaged. Huntington parents did not agree with this decision. They felt that Huntington School students should be able to attend one of the other schools, the schools for Whites, while Huntington was being repaired. Julius’ mother believed that Black children being forced to attend a school that was damaged and not allowed to attend a White school was not fair! Ollie and a small band of families were not accepting this fate for their children. These families developed a plan. They would not send their children back to Huntington School until it was rebuilt. The families were threatened with jail time if they continued to keep their children out school, and a few of the fathers were jailed! However, the threat of jail, jail time, and the loss of income, forced the protesters to send their children back to substandard school. Except for Ollie Barmore and friends, they proceeded with the plan; each family became responsible for teaching the children. The mothers would take their day off and all the children would go to one location and receive their instruction. So many of the mothers were trained teachers but unable to work as teachers in California. This went on for about a year. The NAACP of Pasadena stepped in and took the case to court asking that Huntington school be rebuilt and not just repaired. The court ruled in favor of the Black families and the NAACP. During the building of the new Huntington School, Julius and others became the first Black students in Monrovia to attend all-White Santa Fe Elementary School. Santa Fe School was the first integrated elementary school in Monrovia. The community had gone through a crisis but emerged successfully with a victory. This all occurred in Monrovia years before Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, KS. This victory benefited the entire community putting into motion a town that willingly desegregated all the schools in the City of Monrovia in the 1960s when the rest of America was beginning to struggle with this issue. It’s easy to understand why Julius Parker now sees his mother as Monrovia’s “Female Martin Luther King, Jr.” However, before long Julius found himself amidst yet another crisis. He remembers his experiences going to Huntington school as perfect; it was so comfortable, familiar. It was fun! His “home school” experience was enriching and an adventure, but attending Santa Fe School was just difficult. Many of the white parents were not happy to have the Huntington students attending their neighborhood school and that rubbed off on their children. They were not friendly. The result was tension between the children. Julius remembers one day he and a White boy got in a fight. The White custodian rushed in to stop the fight. “But we kept swinging at each other,” Julius shared. “The custodian just couldn’t stop us.” To Julius’ surprise, the custodian lifted his foot and kicked him, to get him to stop. Julius was shocked. So shocked that he left school and ran home to his mother. Julius related, “Mother couldn’t believe that custodian had kicked me! This was unacceptable!” Her solution was to again contact the one organization that worked for justice for Black people, the NAACP. The custodian was taken to court and Ollie Barmore won a settlement for the inappropriate treatment of her son. Julius recalls his mother’s purpose was not to “get money,” but to send a message, Black children must be treated with respect and parents must support - no - demand that respect using the proper channels. Such a tenacious woman! What seemed to be such small acts back in the 1930s became the catalyst for the future of desegregation in Monrovia schools headed by Ollie Barmore, Julius Parker’s mother. Spotlighting the need for Black children to be treated with dignity and respect by all members of the school community and the community-at-large, had a birthplace in some of the incidences of those times. But the rallying of families in supporting a high standard of education, as well as equal access for Black children, was paramount in these cohesive family units. Her actions really pushed the community forward! Ollie’s focus on education was always strong. When Julius entered into MAD, he was serious about getting a well-rounded education. He played in a band and was becoming an accomplished musician. He also loved to work with his hands and was extremely creative. He had big plans for his future. However, his plans were interrupted. Taking the lead from his mother's example, Julius was a champion of justice in his own right. In 1941, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, America entered World War II and Julius’ time at MAD ended. As an 18 year old in his senior year, he dropped out of school and enlisted in the US Army. He chose to sacrifice his hopes and dreams to serve the country that he loved. He quickly realized that his fellow countrymen did not share the same feeling towards his service. He became keenly aware of the bigotry and prejudice that existed in the military. What did he do about it? He and of his fellow Black soldiers worked hard to do their best in all the menial tasks assigned to them. Julius, however, also was able to serve in the band and played with some of the greatest Black musicians at the time. He made the best out of his experiences and hoped that when he returned home life would be better for the Black man. When the war was over, Julius returned to Monrovia and married Hazel. They raised four children with their same moral compass. Over the years Julius Parker became a quiet mentor of the children in the neighborhood, always providing advice, love and support to those aspiring to be good neighbors, good husbands or wives and good parents. Always focusing on the importance of education and wishing there would have been a way for him to complete school. He was never able to complete that final semester of high school. That was the one thing that he regretted. But on June 7, 2016 the Monrovia Unified School District’s Board of Education awarded this lifelong Monrovia resident, Julius Parker, his diploma at the commencement ceremony at MHS. However, at 91 years old, Mr. Parker was not able to attend the commencement ceremony because he just does get out much anymore. So the School Board came to him. In a brief ceremony at his home he was presented his diploma by Board President Rob Hammond, Vice President Bryan Wong, Trustees Terrence Williams and Ed Gilliand, Superintendent Dr. Katherine Thorossian, and MHS Principal, Kirk McGinnis. During the actual ceremony, Monrovia City Council Member, Larry Spicer, re-presented the diploma acknowledging Julius Parker as “a pillar of this community and a mentor to its young people.” When Mr. Parkers was asked his thoughts about his journey through life while living in Monrovia, he shared that the struggle is not over and just like in the 1930’s the individual and family must retake the helm to support children and their education. This means being present! Support the education of all children. Do whatever it takes to assure that all students have equal access. Instill within children the desire to strive for excellence in all things. Don’t tell children to make excuses. Help them to look for the solutions that they can control. These individual, family acts in unity with other like minds will keep the community of Monrovia ever advancing in our collective struggle to eliminate bigotry and prejudice. Mr. Parker concluded, in other words, as a member of one human family, commit to be a role model for other members of the community. Fight for social justice. Don’t place blame. Work on solutions. Become a change agent. Julius stated that he has learned people can do anything they put their minds to. He said, “I know that one person can make a difference when that happens. Our separate but collective actions can lead to positive changes. But we all need to call ourselves into account each day and get involved! At the end of each day we need to assess how we were Champions of Justice for that day.”